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Distinguishing Coke vs Pepsi (or any 2 similar tastes)

  • h

"Experts" generally claim to be able to distinguish between "things that might look or seem similar but which are not". And/or, people believe they can.

The classic example is probably the ability to distinguish between, say, 2 wines; more generally, between Recipe X cooked well, and Recipe X cooked not so well.

But do you know how to measure that claim?

Suppose your friend says "I can distinguish between Coke and Pepsi". How would you show that that claim is true, or false?

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  1. Very simple, use a double blind test. Place Coke in one cup, Pepsi in another, labelling the cups as say 1 and 2, corresponding to each cola.

    10 Replies
    1. re: Alan H

      Just to clarify, it's called a blind tasting, not a double blind test. A double blind test is a scientific method in which the subjects and the observers are blind to the experimental and control groups.

      And by the way, coke usually has a slightly bitter or sour finish, while pepsi has a sweeter finish. I prefer RC cola.

      1. re: Eric Eto

        actually, couldn't you do a double-blind test where the _tester_ doesn't know which one is which, either? so he couldn't influence the results? This is how they made us do the taste tests for science projects in grade school.

      2. re: Alan H

        ...how many of those blind taste-tests must the taster get right?

        It's very interesting to me that you're apparently the only person here, so far, who actually gave a direct, on-point answer to my question!

        1. re: Howard-2

          Thanks Howard, I pride myself on my ability to read :)
          Actually, the non-answer responses are a pet peeve of mine. As for the question at hand-- obviously the more "trials" the more accurate the results. If your friend can get it right 4 or 5 times in a row, I'd say you've got to give him his due.

          1. re: Alan H

            I think its actually called "The Pepsi Challenge" (double blind or no)

            I've been told that pepsi set up the challenge because when tasters are given a small amount of soda to taste, they will invariably pick the sweeter one (i.e. Pepsi). So they essentially engineered their "blind" tasting so that they will win.

            If the taster was allowed to drink more of the soda, they would notice that Pepsi is overly and one-dimensionally sweet. I don't like soda in general, but prefer coke because it has more of a carmelly bitterness that counters the sweetness a bit.

            1. re: Dan

              There is a reason Coke tastes like it does, it started out as medicine and still tastes like one...yuck.

              1. re: Maria

                I guess it's too bad they took out all the medicinal qualities.

                1. re: the rogue

                  Which would essentially be the cocaine. There were certainly some very interesting "medicines" floating about during the 19th century!

          2. re: Howard-2

            Please note that here on Chowhound, we entreat our users not to change subject titles unless there has been a serious drift in the subject of the thread. While we know it's standard paractice in many forums to frequently change subject titles to reflect your reponse, that doesn't work very well with our setup, and ask you to leave the title and keep the content of your message inside your post. Many regulars here use Hot Posts (link on the main page) which doesn't provide a hierarchy for threads, so they appreciate titles that indicate what the post's about. Also, unrelated titles complicate future searches.

            Thanks, and back to the chow!

            1. re: Howard-2

              I started to reply without noticing that this discussion was over 9 years ago -- someone else's reply brought it to the main page. But since I typed this out anyway...

              In scientific studies, you calculate the probability of a result being due to random chance. This is called a "p-value" (probability) As long as that p-value is below a certain level (called the significance level), we can reject the null-hypothesis and accept the claim.

              Basically, this means that the more subjects in your test, or the more you repeat your tests, the less likely it is that the results are due to chance. Calculating a level of significance and a p-value is highly dependent on how many subjects, what kind of information they have going into the test, and how many trials they run.

          3. Supposedly, the flavor differences to look for are that Coke has a vanilla overtone, while Pepsi has a lime or citrusy overtone.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Karl S.

              Coke tastes cinnamony, and is less sweet than Pepsi.

              1. re: ironmom

                This must be like that wine thing. I think coke tastes sweeter than pepsi. I agree with the vanilla overtones in coke and sort of fake citrus taste in pepsi.

            2. Coke has a bite, a somewhat spicy sensation, to it. Pepsi is sweeter and smoother. Coke goes better with lemon. Pepsi, because of its sweetness, is less compatible with lemon. Both companies make too much money for selling flavored water.

              2 Replies
              1. re: EatDrinkMan

                I agree, and that "bite" is why I will always prefer Coke to Pepsi. If a place only has Pepsi, I won't even bother--I'll have a 7Up or something else.

                1. re: Stephanie L.

                  I think also that Coke has a gas-inducing effect of a lower degree than Pepsi. With a Coke, you can probably let the gas escape in silent portions. With a Pepsi, my experience is that the gas builds up instantly and to such a massive degree that your belch can rival that of a beer's. Please keep this in mind when you're on a date - no Pepsi. Save it for after the wedding.

              2. I prefer Pepsi to Coke, and can always tell the difference.

                Same thing with those artificial sweeteners, there is always an after taste that is unmistakable to me.

                1. Personally I dislike all colas and most soda in general. The only ones I have on rare occasions are a spicy ginger ale or a high quality root beer, birch beer, or sarsparilla. All the rest taste like chemically treated and sweetened syrup water with annoying bubbles that make you burb and sting your throat. I just don't get soda to tell you the truth. I used to brew my own from scratch or concentrates and these are great but more like a sort of spiced non-alcoholic beer.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: the rogue

                    My general response to commercial soda is twofold: yuck and "A buck for a can of sugarwater?"

                    But Rogue, howabout a new thread on how you made your own soda? Did you make your own rootbeer?

                  2. As for developing your taste. This just takes time, care and practice. You need to learn to focus on the flavors, how they are different on different parts of the palate, tongue, throat, etc. Do they have initial tastes, then main flavors, over and under tones, and aftertastes? Also there is the component of mouthfeel. What does it feel like in your mouth and when you swallow. Build a knowledge base of both what certain flavors taste like as well as what certain names in the tasters world actually mean. Also there is the bouquet or aroma of what you taste. This is integral to the experience. then of course there is the most subjective of all. Does it taste good? Do you enjoy it. This is something that changes, especially the more you are exposed to. You may not like a certain taste but be able to at least identify it. After a while you may learn to like something you didn't before, and vice versa.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: the rogue

                      Oooh, your posts, you rogue, you. A phenomenolgical analysis of Coke and Pepsi.

                      BTW: aren't they both caramelized sugar water with artificial flavorings?

                    2. Which brings me to a pet peeve...when you ask for a Coke at a restaurant, and they serve you a Pepsi. The server may not think so, but I can tell the difference! I think Pepsi tastes like flat Coke. Not as carbonated, twice as sweet. Ugh!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Can

                        Anytime I've ordered a diet soda at a restaurant (and I always order diet) they respond with "Diet Coke OK?" or "Diet Pepsi OK?" They always identify what they are serving.

                        I prefer Pepsi to Coke but will drink Coke if that's all they serve.

                      2. s
                        Stanley Stephan

                        Speaking of blind tasting, how cheap is McDonald's. They are not serving Heinz catsup with their fries anymore. Just some unidentified, cloying sweet red stuff...Hunts? Heinz (proudly identified at Burger King) has a more salty, less sweet taste.

                        And there IS a difference between Helman's mayonaise sold on the East Coast and Best Foods sold on the West Coast. The East Coast version has more of a Miracle Whip tang to it which I prefer. The Best Food site does admit there's a slight difference to accomodate regional preferances.

                        Pass the Pepsi...

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: Stanley Stephan

                          Funny, I love Heinz, but always thought the stuff in the packets tasted way different-- kind of metallic and overly sweet. Doesn't matter, I never eat at McD's or BK.

                          1. re: Stanley Stephan

                            I didn't realize there were "regional preferences" for mayo....

                            1. re: Stanley Stephan

                              next thing you know, Mickey Dees will be using Grade F meat, (containing circus animals, and fillers ).

                              1. re: sooth

                                Or gym mats...

                                "There's very little meat in these gym mats."

                            2. I have thrown a few tasting parties. Twice, we've tested colas. In each case, we poured Coke, Pepsi, and store brand colas, all from 12-oz. cans. All were cold, no ice. The vehicle -- cheap plastic cups, unmarked, of course.

                              The results were astounding. 26 out of 28 people (in the two tests) preferred Coke, and 25 out of 28 recognized Coke. Almost as many were able to identify Pepsi, but there was some confusion between the store brand and Pepsi.

                              What we now call Classic Coke did extremely well in these tests, outranking virtually everything else we tested.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: Dave Feldman


                                Very interesting about the tasting parties. I have a friend who has been running pyramid tests with 2-liters of coke and pepsi for years and he swears that only one person ever got it right. I tried this myself with 3 other people and no one had any clue whatsoever. (Of course we all started out saying that it would be easy to tell the difference--I was quite surprised to find how indistinguishable they really were.) Both of your tests were with cans? Any thoughts on whether there might be a taste difference with 2-liters? (Something having to do with carbonation maybe? Or flavor creep from plastic vs metal?)

                                What else have you tasted at your parties? And more importantly, are you still having them? If so, can I come? I once did one with cheap beer and Coor's Light was unanimously rated worst and by far most watery. One person was even convinced it wasn't beer at all--they thought it was Dr. Brown's Celery Soda!

                                1. re: jk_actually

                                  Is this post a joke, actually?
                                  Maybe to make a point about ancient threads being revived because they haven't been automatically locked?

                                  If it is, I'd say that the discussion in this thread is the kind that can reasonably continue even though years have passed since the last post.

                                  In 2002 when this thread was still active, functional MRI hadn't yet been used to look at how different areas of the brain perform during a Pepsi challenge.
                                  That experiment has now been done

                                2. re: Dave Feldman

                                  Here's a good way to do taste tests. Have one person mark the cups, like A B C or 1 2 3 or ! @ # etc. In threes.

                                  He secretly pours two of the cups with Coke and one with Pepsi. Or vice versa. He makes as many triples as you like so everybody can have their own.

                                  He sends trays of the marked and filled cups out to the tasters; he doesn't talk to them or watch them. They each say which of the three is different, and whether the different one is Coke or Pepsi.

                                  If they can't tell which one is different, then they really can't tell them apart. If they can tell which one is different but they can't tell which is which that's better.

                                  In my experience most people can't tell which one is different. They have definite opinions about which they like better, but they can't tell by taste.

                                  After they find out that they can't tell them apart when the cups are not labeled, they still keep their definite opinions about which they like better, and they still think they can tell the difference -- after they see the label.

                                  There are various tricks people claim they can use to tell which are which. Some people think they can tell by the size of the bubbles, or the number of the bubbles. Some people think they can tell a vanilla or citrus taste. Some people think they can tell by the amount of sweetness. In my experience, people who say this have consistently been surprised when they couldn't tell which one was different. They tended to doubt that one of them was in fact different. But they tended to doubt that they could tell which one all three were, either.